President’s response on police devolution is a missed opportunity for leadership

Following a parliamentary reply by President Cyril Ramaphosa this week on devolving policing powers, the City of Cape Town is calling on the Ministers of Police and Justice, Bheki Cele and Ronald Lamola, to formally respond to our request for more policing powers. Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis said in an 18 August letter that the City wants to do even more to help SAPS fight crime, and already has law enforcement capacity to do this. More policing powers for municipal officers would enable them to compile prosecution-ready case dockets, especially on key crime categories such as guns, drugs, gangs, and metal theft.

The City further supports the devolution of more powers for the Western Cape Government to shape policing policy and accountability for the region. In a parliamentary reply this week, President Ramaphosa opposed more policy-making powers for provinces on policing.

The President missed an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in combatting crime. The President was also silent on the specific constitutional means of devolving powers which the City has proposed to Ministers Cele and Lamola. The City already has its own Municipal Police service and is seeking to give it more powers, either via section 99 of the Constitution or by expanding the existing legislative framework for policing.

‘I am appealing to President Ramaphosa: do not abandon our communities who are living in daily fear of violent crime, and support our call to empower local law enforcement with more policing power. Our fight is with criminals, not politicians. The City already has officers on the ground who can help SAPS fight crime, and we are investing millions in safety technology and coordination for more effective policing. Together we can take more guns and drugs off the streets, and prevent the many tragedies and lives needlessly lost in our communities. This is about children being able to play safely outside, and for residents to have simple freedom of movement and a chance at a better life. We can help SAPS fight crime and make Cape Town safer together. We keenly await Minister Cele and Lamola’s positive response to this sincere offer of support,’ said Mayor Hill-Lewis.

Mayor Hill-Lewis specifically asked the Police Minister to consider a devolution of policing powers to the City under section 99 of the Constitution. This does not conflict with the constitutional provision for a single police service, as the constitution allows for the SAPS to be structured differently at national, provincial, and municipal level.

The Mayor has also offered more immediate help to SAPS by way of extending existing peace officer powers granted to municipal law enforcement. This would simply require the issuing of another declaration by the Justice Minister – as was done in 2018 when more powers were conferred to municipal law enforcement.

Municipal Law Enforcement has more than tripled its arrest rate in recent years due to increased investment, with 50% of these arrests being drug-related.

The City is investing in more than 230 new law enforcement and metro police officers in this financial year alone, and hundreds of millions of rands in crime fighting tech in the city – from cameras to drones to gunshot location technology, with a record R5,4bn Safety budget in 2022/23.

In partnership with the Western Cape Government, the Law Enforcement Advancement Plan (LEAP) has collectively delivered 1 100 new officers in communities impacted by high crime rates, including Delft, Nyanga, Khayelitsha (Site C), Philippi (inclusive of Hanover Park), Bishop Lavis, Mfuleni, Harare, Gugulethu, Kraaifontein, Mitchells Plain, Atlantis, Philippi East, and Samora Machel.

As of 31 July 2022, LEAP officers have made 8 500 arrests overall since the first deployment in February 2020. Over 220 guns have been taken off the streets in line with LEAP’s aim of helping the South African Police Service (SAPS) reduce murders and other violent crimes.

Source: City Of Cape Town

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